Gridlinked by Neal Asher (Agent Cormac 1)

This is the original first novel about Earth Central Security (ECS) agent Cormac. The books starts with a man about to teleport through the Skaiden Runcible device 253 light years to his destination while suffering from hangover and a cut in the film about a sexy catwoman that half undressed him on the dance floor the night before. But something goes wrong and he exits at his destination a fraction under the speed of light causing a 30 mega ton  explosion. The body count is more than 10 000 and that’s just the beginning.

Title: Gridlinked
Series: Agent Cormac 1
Author: Neal Asher
Paperback: 443 pages
Genre: Space Opera | Military Science Fiction
Publisher: Pan 2001 | Tor
Order: Tor | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

In outer space you can never feel sure that your adversary is altogether human.

The runcible buffers on Samarkand have been mysteriously sabotaged, killing many thousands and destroying a terraforming project. Agent Cormac must reach it by ship to begin an investigation. But Cormac has incurred the wrath of a vicious psychopath called Pelter, who is prepared to follow him across the galaxy with a terrifying android in tow.

Despite the sub-zero temperature of Samarkand, Cormac discovers signs of life: they are two ‘dracomen’, alien beasts contrived by an extra-galactic entity calling itself ‘Dragon’, which is a huge creature consisting of four conjoined spheres of flesh each a kilometer in diameter. Caught between the byzantine wiles of the Dragon and the lethal fury of Pelter, Cormac needs to skip very nimbly indeed to rescue the Samarkand project and protect his own life.

Information

Our protagonist Agent Cormac is an unfeeling field agent. He’s cover is blown because his asset thinks he is a construct and he has to fight his way out. Cormac has been Gridlinked for 30 years and it has dehumanized him to a level where it affects his usability as an agent so he gets a choice, shut it down yourself or face the consequences. Being without a connection after such a long time affects a man. I compare it’s effect with the description in WE.

Much of this book and the series is about him finding his humanity again.

The series long arc deals with the Dragon and ancient races.

The Author

Neal Asher is a British science fiction author living in Essex. I am most familiar with and love the now six Agent Cormac novels in the Polity universe. He has also written the Splatterjay Trilogy and a number of standalone novels and short stories in the same universe that I am keen on reading (expected summer reading 2010).

World building

The world Neal Asher paints is the Polity where humanity has spread thousands of light years ruled by benign artificial intelligences (AIs). Instead of evolving into something in-comprehensive by humans the AI:s choose to stay with their creators. There are some post human features in there mind-upload into golem bodies, nano technology, body enhancments, computer-brain interfaces, sentient spaceships and much much more.

One thing that sets Neal Asher apart from the usual Space Opera is the complex and well thought out future society he created.

I like the recurring articles at the beginning of each chapter that highlight items or phenomenon in the world.

In this book he also introduces the mysterious Dragon an extragalactic entity with unclear motivations sent to our galaxy by the Makers.

Plot

When the Runcible on Samarkand is destroyed Cormac is assigned to find out why.

The asset Cormac had to kill when his cover was blown is Angelina Pelter, the sister of  Separatist leader Arian Pelter. He swear revenge on the man who killed his sister and sets out after Cormac accompanied by a crazy robot called Mr Cane.

Cormac arrive at Samarkand in ship only to discover two life forms there, the aforementioned Dracomen.

Cormac is hard pressed to survive while unraveling the mysteries surrounding the Runcible explosion.

Characterization

Cormac is my kind of hero. He is not a superman, he feels like a human even in this space opera setting. He has his weaknesses and doubts (he suffers from addiction to his gridlink since 30 years). But he is also inventive and adaptive and determined. Great characterization by Neal Asher.

The rest of the characters are fairly well developed also.

My View

The quality of  Neal Asher’s writing has improved since this first book in 2001, I notice because I just finished reading Shadow of the Scorpion from 2008. It is still a great book filled to the brim with exciting ideas and fast paced breathtaking action. My mind exploded the first time I read Gridlinked it has so many marvelous ideas, intriguing aliens, gadgets and settings that I kept going Wow all the time. The Polity is on par with all the other Singularity writers out there and the action makes me think of James Bond and Dominic Flandry. I recommend Gridlinked to all lovers of intelligent space opera.